There’s an old (and usually accurate) adage that nothing good happens after 2 a.m., but in The City That Never Sleeps, there are some exceptions to the rule. This time around, it’s seven-time Grammy-winning saxophonist Paul Winter’s 28th Annual Summer Solstice Sunrise Celebration.
At 4:30 a.m. on Saturday, June 17, you can head to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine (at 1047 Amsterdam Avenue at 112th Street) for the festivities, which marks the first time since the start of the pandemic that the Paul Winter Consort headlines the popular concert in person.
“Summer Solstice is one of the great turning points of the year, when the sun is at its peak and the days abound with the promise of life’s fullness,” Winter states in a press release. “Our aspiration, with this sunrise celebration, is to offer an experience of this resonance, in the mystical ambience of these early morning hours, through a deep listening journey within the awesome vastness of the Cathedral.”
The Morningside Heights Cathedral — widely known as the world’s sixth-largest church by area, and the largest (or second-largest, depending on who you ask) Anglican cathedral — plays host to a variety of events throughout the year, with this regarded as a fan-favorite.
While the ultra-early (or late) timestamp may be off-putting, there’s a method to the madness. “When I’m awake in the darkness before dawn — as the birds begin to sing and the Earth prepares to greet the Sun — I feel as if life is beginning again. There’s something magical about that virginal time, when we’re free of our habitual patterns and obligations,” Winter explains. “My dream of evoking this feeling in music was the original inspiration for our Summer Solstice Celebration.”
If you’re not familiar with the concept of the “summer solstice” (also known as midsummer in some cultures), it’s essentially the merriment surrounding the longest day of the year. This is thanks to the sun’s position within the Northern Hemisphere, which creates a longer period of daylight. This phenomenon will be visible throughout the performance, as Winter notes, “We begin playing in total darkness, embarking on a continuous musical journey. Somewhere near the halfway point, listeners gradually realize that the Cathedral’s great stained-glass windows are beginning to illuminate, as the light joins the sound to carry us into the dawning of the summer.”
There are three tiers of tickets available for the big show: $50 for general admission, $60 for preferred general admission and $40 for “yoga mat” admission. Yes, there will be a section for yoga mats, if any listeners want to soak up the sounds horizontally (which is probably the preferred position for 4:30 a.m. anyway).
Once the music stops, the nave of the Cathedral will play host to a tea and coffee reception, featuring complimentary teas, coffee and cookies. You can purchase tickets here.